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Immigration reform a pivotal point in our educational and economic competitiveness

By Domenic Giandomenico, Democrats for Education Reform

(From The Hill, April 18th, 2013)

The ”Gang of Eight” had the right idea in supporting efforts to increase STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education in the United States as part of the immigration reform package they unveiled Wednesday. But it’s hard to imagine that the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” which raises the cap on the H1B visas that allow companies to employ foreigners in U.S. STEM-based jobs, will lead to any meaningful improvement in STEM education for U.S. students or in American workers’ ability to compete for these jobs in the future.

One of the major obstacles negotiators faced in crafting the immigration reform package was the issue of foreign workers and U.S. jobs. The deal on whether and how foreign workers may take lower-skill U.S. jobs was forged only after intense negotiations between business and labor unions. So far, however, no one with comparable political heft is fighting hard for the interests of tomorrow’s workers - today’s U.S. students.

In a typical year more than 100,000 workers obtain H1B visas that allow companies to employ them in high-skill U.S. jobs. In order to obtain such visas, companies must demonstrate that they cannot find qualified candidates among U.S. citizens. The extent to which H1B visas will be needed in the future depends on how successful the U.S. education system is at providing today’s students with the STEM training needed to fill these high-skill jobs. Each U.S. student who is not provided with an adequate education in the areas of STEM represents a future adult at risk of becoming chronically low paid and under-employed because of his or her competitive disadvantage compared to a foreign student.

Read the full post here.